Welcome to my blog! In the coming months, I will post on objects related to my Contemporary Monuments to the Slave Past project as well as big ideas I need to sort out. For now, it will not be open for comments but feel free to like!
I selected Alison Saar's Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial (2008) as my first blog post because it is such a powerful and compelling image, and I am currently obsessed with Harriet Tubman as a woman and as a historical figure. The first public monument to an African American woman in New York City, the statue is located at Harriet Tubman Square, formed at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard at West 122nd Street in Harlem.
The contrast between the verdigris patina of her coat and skirt and the slate black patina of her skin are visually striking. With a stoic expression and determined gaze (think Roman portrait bust), Tubman moves forward with the steam of a locomotive. The bottom of her skirt becomes the pilot of a train, sometimes called a cattle catcher, which was the device mounted at the front of a locomotive to deflect obstacles on the track that might derail the train. Embedded in her skirt are portraits of anonymous faces, the passengers of the Underground Railroad, as well as objects carried north by fugitive slaves including cowry shells, medicine bottles, time pieces, shoe souls, and the broken manacles of slavery.